Saturday, May 18, 2013

Hallo zusammen!

Hi, everyone (or noone, as the case may be)! Sorry that I haven't been posting in, like, forever. I kinda let the whole blogging thing slide last October. Well, I've decided to get back on the horse (we're on break for the next 8 days, so it seemed like an opportune time). Since I can't think of another topic to post about, I'll write about the break and my plans!

One of the strange things about Germany is its diverse religious history- even today, public holidays are different from state to state depending on whether the area is historically Protestant or Catholic. A good example is the month of May. In historically Protestant states, such as Brandenburg, school and life goes on as usual (I think). In historically Catholic states, however, such as here in Baden-Württemberg (well, Baden at least is historically Catholic), the whole month is shot. First, there's a Thursday off for Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension), then a week off for Pfingsten (Pentacost), followed by another Thursday off for Fronleichnam (Corpus Christi). Ergo, my Latin class (which meets on Thursday mornings) is only meeting twice in the very merry month of May.

 So, what am I going to do with all my free time! Well, as mentioned above, I'm going to try to blog (at least two or three times this week). I've also got oodles of work to do! (Yay!) This involves researchig and writing a first draft for a medieval history paper, reading Euripides' Iphigenia at Tauris (in German), and figuring out topics for my three other term papers! Oh and also work editing a book. In my free time (falls es überhaupt gibt) I plan on doing some exploring of the region. I may go to Schauinsland, and plan on going into Alsace. Wednesday I'm going on a tour and wine tasting with a friend and his family at the Badischer Weinbauverband, which is just a few block from where I live. I'll try to remember to put up pictures of all this stuff, as well as some stuff from last semester.

Until then, here's a picture of a mechanical elephant I rode on last October in Nantes. An elephant never forgets, the way I will never forget to write new posts. Except this is a mechanical elephant so it probably can't remember anything, the way I probably won't remember to post as much as I should. Bis bald!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Περὶ τῆς δευτερᾶς ἡμέρας τῆς ἐν ταῖς Ἀθήναις: Ἀρχαιολογία Λυκαβέττος τε καὶ Κοκορέτσι!

Ἄνηρ ὁ σὺν χολίοις ὀφθάλμοις... ἢ σὺν χολίῳ ὀφθάλμῳ...

ὁ Ζεὺς ὦν ζηνικός

Athens: Day 2! Today's big event- the National Archaeological Museum! Just off the Viktoria Metro stop and near the University of Athens, the Museum is located near where some of the riots recently have taken place- we saw splatters from paint balloons and an armored bus full of riot police o.O We first went to Mass at St. Dionysius, one of the few Catholic churches in the city. It was a bit strange, seeing Mass said in the Roman rite in modern Greek in a Baroque church in Athens. Bizarre. Then we went to the museum (a real bargain at 3E a pop), and proceeded to spend the rest of the morning into midafternoon drooling over everything awesome there. I'll share some of my favorites; unfortunately a lot of the smaller artifacts were in glass cases that were very adverse to photo-taking. So if you want to see the "Mask of Agamemnon", look at someone else's picture haha.

The absolute best part however, was the entire exhibit on the Antikythera shipwreck! In addition to the famous mechanism/device, there were also fantastic bronze statues, and some other artifacts, including a fantastic glass bowl. This was another great instance of not knowing when I was going to see something awesome, then being very pleasantly surprised!

THIS is Mt. Lykavettos
Thoroughly exhausted after the museum, we took a brief break at our hotel, then set out to conquer Mt. Lykavettos! It was a bit of a hike, but the views from the top are excellent. Plus there's a very nice chapel at the top dedicated to St. George (if you zoom in on the picture, you should be able to pick it out as a while blob on the summit). Go there, light a candle, pray for an end to the East-West schism.

To finish off the day, I had a nice, filling, traditional Greek food- Kokoretsi, a sausage made with organ meats, roasted on a skewer- in an all-natural casing, of course!
Mmmmmm..... Yummy!
ὁ φιλόσοφος τῆς Ἀντικυθέρας
And here's another picture from the Antikythera exhibit, just cause it's awesome. And a philosopher.

Τὸ τὰ τῶν Ἀθηνῶν θαυμαστὰ ἰδεῖν τὸ ἐμόν! Τῇ πρωτῇ ἡμέρᾳ περὶ τῆς Ἀκροπόλεως

Sorry for the lack of posts; it's been midterm season here. Maybe at this point I should just admit that I'm not very good at this whole blogging thing. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. About 2 weeks ago, we had a 3-day weekend (I'm not quite sure why). Regardless, a few friends and I took advantage of the opportunity to visit Athens!!! Thankfully, there were no riots (at least that we saw). As you may or may not have been able to tell from the title, I'm going to need to do multiple posts about Athens- we were only there for 48 hours, but I have SO MANY PICTURES.

Okay then, Day 1: THE ACROPOLIS.
The Acropolis as seen from the Areopagus
GAH. IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL. And there are inscriptions EVERYWHERE. Like this one that I took a picture of (as I did with just about all of them):
What does it say? "The city something something the high priest something something the people something something." I'll get around to that eventually.
We had really fantastic weather; it's pretty impressive how big the climate difference was between Rome and Greece. Athens is a cool city, very vibrant, really nice modern metro system. And pretty cheap, too: admission to the Acropolis was 6E a person with the student discount, and I think that's the most we spent on visiting any single place. Also, there are stray animals all over the place. Especially dogs. Big dogs. Here's one just chillin' in front of the Parthenon. No big deal.
Τίς ἐστι ἀγαθὸς παῖς; Τίς ἐστι; Σὺ δὴ, εἶς δή!
And of course the requisite classics-people-in-front-of-the-Parthenon photo.
Καλοί ἐσμεν, ἢ οὐ;

The Areopagus, on top of which St. Paul reportedly preached, along with a plaque with the relevant section from Acts (in Koine, of course):

Friday, October 12, 2012

Unique 'Appenings on the Via Appia Antica

Like what I did with the title there? See the chiasm? Aren't I great? Anyway, my literary pretensions aside, I did indeed have a "unique" experience on the Via Appia Antica a couple weeks ago. A significant chunk of the road has been set aside for (mostly) pedestrian use ("pedestrian areas" in Italy are more of a guideline than a rule), including some stretches with ancient paving! The program sponsored a trip one Sunday morning to go explore a few kilometers of the road on a bicycle tour! The tour was pretty good; even with the cobblestones bike is still a good way to travel the road- you can cover more ground than on food and still easily stop and look at the ancient tombs that line the road. Things went great until we got here:

This is the tomb of Caecilia Metella, probably the most famous tomb along the Via Appia, and also where we started having difficulties. One of the bikes decided it wanted to stop working. At this point we're about 3 km out, with probably 3 or 4 to go. Then back. The chain on the bike kept disengaging from the main sprocket, which we found out was bent. (How? No idea.) So, being manly men (myself and the guy whose bike broke), we set about to fix the bike while everyone went on ahead except for one of the professors, who I'm pretty sure just stuck around so she could watch us and laugh, since our idea of fixing the bike consisted of pounding the sprocket back into shape by hitting it with rocks. Needless to say, we were less than successful, so we decided to forge on ahead, using the unpedalable bike like a scooter. Then it started to rain. And the seat broke on that same bike. Finally we reached the farthest point that the tour went to, having passed everyone else going in the opposite direction long prior, where the professor's husband, also a professor, was waiting for us. The four of us had made it less than halfway back when the back tire on my bike suddenly went flat. Rather than walk the rest of the way back, we stopped and got drinks while the bike rental company brought us a new bike and a replacement wheel. After that, things went smoothly.

Moral(s) of the story: the Via Appia Antica is awesome. But try not to go on a rainy day. And check the bikes before you rent them.

San Sebastiano. In which Kevin goes on a linguistic rant and muses theologically..

A.S. Yes, I know this post is super late. I'm sorry, dear readers.

Yesterday (at the time of publishing, considerably longer ago) afternoon we took a trip as a group outside the city, via a charter bus. We went along part of the ancient Via Appia to the Catacombs of San Sebastiano (so named because he used to be buried there), the oldest Christian catacombs in Rome. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pictures there, but they are fantastic. There are about a quarter of a million niches in the seven miles of tunnels, though almost all of them are empty- the Pope ordered the bodies moved because people kept going relic-hunting. Nevertheless, there are some really really interesting inscriptions, including one that was so cool I just had to get a bookmark of it. The inscription reads "CΙΡΙΚΕ ΙΝ ΠΑΚΕ", and though it's written with Greek letters, is in Latin! Transliterated, it reads "SIRICE IN PACE", which could be rendered as something along the lines of "For Sirica, [who rests] in peace". From a linguistic standpoint, it's interesting because it provides strong evidence that at this time (somewhere between the 2nd and 4th century) ⟨C⟩ followed by ⟨I⟩ or ⟨E⟩ was still pronounced as [k] in Latin, rather than [tʃ], as it is in modern Ecclesiastical Latin. (In layman's terms, the last word of the inscription was pronounced "PAH-kay" rather than "PAH-chay" at this time, though the latter is how it's pronounced in Ecclesiastical Latin nowadays.) On the other hand, it also suggests that some of the vowel changes in Ecclesiastical Latin had already occurred at this point (as does another inscription I saw), though I'd need to do quite a bit more research.

On a more spiritual note, the church above the catacombs has some interesting relics- one of the arrows St. Sebastian was shot with, a piece of the pillar he was bound to when shot, and a chunk of stone from the Via Appia, where (according to tradition) St. Peter saw Jesus walking into Rome "to be crucified again". Peter, who had been fleeing Rome at the time, then turned back and eventually was crucified in Rome. According to tradition, Peter's footprints were was miraculously marked on the stone.

I know a lot of people doubt that most relics actually are what they claim to be. I think many of them are, but even those that  aren't serve as an excellent reminder that these events actually happened to real people at specific points in history, rather than some mythical "in illo tempore" or fairytale "once upon a time". Even if the board inside St. John Lateran isn't actually the top of the table the Last Supper was celebrated on, there was actually a tabletop that exists or existed at some point on which it was celebrated. An actual physical object, that is, not just some spiritual abstraction or literary invention. It's very easy to think that it's all just a nice story with interesting philosophical and theological ideas, but when confronted with the reality that something incredible happened to some very ordinary people approximately 2000 years ago, the implications of the "story" become very very serious. It's very easy to go around with an abstract belief in these things- i.e. knowing what we say we believe as Catholics, and following that (generally, at least). But we say these things because they are what happened, because this is how the universe works. It's real stuff. And that's a scary thought. Seeing John the Baptist's desiccated head in a silver box makes for a pretty strong reality check.

On a less serious note, look at the cool souvenir I got! That's right: a magic lamp. With a Jesus fish on it.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


This water tastes like freedom!
Ok, I realize I've been a biiiit behind on the posting lately, so I'm going to try to get at least 2 posts up today, maybe three. First off; St. Peter's! I finally got around to going there this past Monday with my Liturgical Art & Architecture class. (Yes, that's a thing; yes, it's awesome.) This class is basically, as I like to call it, "go around Rome and look at all the pretty churches". So Monday was St. Peter's. We met at the obelisk, so before class I had some time to adventure around the Piazza San Pietro, taking deep breaths of the air and tasting the water of the last free country on earth. Ok, I'm done being dramatic. But the free water there was decently good (as is the free water in Rome in general). St. Peter's in general just has sooooo much to see. I think for the purposes of this post I'm mostly going to try to focus on inscriptions and the like. Before I get into that however, I'd just like to say that all the work they've been doing on the colonnade looks great! And don't just take my word for it; look at how shiny the bit in the front of this next picture looks compared to the stuff to the left.
Alright, so words! The first words you very well may see when entering the Vatican from the front, i.e. coming west along Via della Conciliazione, are the inscription on the front of the obelisk's pedestal. The inscription reads "Behold, the Cross of the Lord! Flee, o adverse forces! The Lion from the tribe of Judah has conquered!" Very appropriate, since according to legend/tradition there's a relic of the True Cross contained in the bronze topper of the obelisk. This inscription is really awesome, because it's basically a giant "BEWARE OF DOG" sign, except in Latin and about Jesus (ergo cave leonem, non cave canem). So while the colonnade is reaching its arms out to welcome the faithful, Jesus is standing there speaking softly and carrying a big stick. Or, cross. But anyway. So watch out.

As a point of contrast, this inscription is above your head as you pass through the colonnade towards St. Peter's after passing security.
The Latin translates to "Come, let us ascend onto the mountain of the Lord; let us adore (Him) in His holy temple". Also seems appropriate; it's almost like the people who built this place knew what they were doing...... And now for a mystery! Here's a closeup shot of the center doors into the church itself, which show Peter (and Paul, I think). But in the border around the figures it looks to me like there's some kind of writing! I haven't been able to identify it, though- it kind of looks like Arabic or maybe Syriac, or at least something Semitic (maybe Aramaic?). So if anyone has any insight into what this might be, let me know!
Mystery writing!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Mediterranean, Shopping, and Spaghetti!

Just had a total fail at the supermercato: my total came to 9,81, and I wanted to pay with my last two "food stamps" (the meal vouchers that we get 60E worth of a week). However, the food stamps are each 5E, and the cashier lady tried to explain to me that I would need to bring the total over 10E and cover the rest with cash so that the 0,19 wouldn't be her responsibility. I understood her decently well, but was at a total loss for words how to explain that I only had about 2E cash on me at the time. So I ended up buying a Twix (I needed a moment) and bringing it to about 10,60. Lesson learned: carry at least 5E cash at all times, and make sure to warm up my Italian before going out. On the bright side, I got NUTELLA! It's in a glass jar, which just makes it that much more awesome.

Last night, a group of us went out to a restaurant somewhere in the area around the Trevi Fountain that had 40 or 50 different types of spaghetti. The choices were overwhelming, but I ended up getting spaghetti Tirolesi, which had mushrooms, speck, mozzarella, and olive oil. It was probably the best pasta I've ever had. My favorite thing so far about the food in Italy is that the pasta is always cooked perfectly al dente! Definitely going to go there again, maybe for lunch (when they accept the meal vouchers).

 Yesterday, a group of us took a train from Roma to S. Martinella. Although it was on the cool side, I went for a swim in the Tyrrhenian Sea! The water was very salty and made it easy to float. So now I can say I've been in the Mediterranean. Totally worth the train ride (4,60 each way) and fee for the beach (10E between three of us).